A friend of mine that I caught up with recently struggled with Candida for years, and now finally has it under control. Having done miserable anti-Candida diets, herbs, supplements etc – it is fermented foods that have finally worked for her. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen that. It reinforced to me the importance of fermented foods, and she has inspired me to start making coconut kefir at home.
Fermented foods may be a new concept to some people, but they are worth knowing about. There are many benefits of fermented foods. Our modern diet is lacking in naturally occurring enzymes and pre- and probiotics. In other words, our highly processed and low-nutrient foods are more likely to disturb and deplete the healthy gut flora rather than build it up, whereas fermented foods help to build up the healthy gut flora. This is what occurs when we take probiotics, so fermented foods are a way to contribute to that process naturally. They may not take the place of probiotic supplementation, especially for those with specific digestive issues, but it all helps!
This is similar to a liquid yogurt and is the only dairy product that I recommend. It is filled with friendly bacteria and enzymes that can help balance gut flora and digest food. Make sure to purchase the plain one as the fruit flavored ones have added sugar. Goat milk kefir is also available but is quite a bit more expensive. Coconut kefir is also beneficial, but is not widely available in stores. You can make your own using a kefir starter (see www.bodyecology.com). Another brand of coconut kefir is Inner Eco, available at natural food stores (www.inner-eco.com). Their kefir has been verified carrying 360 trillion live cultures per ounce. If your local health food store does not carry it, ask them to!!
Where to get it: health food stores, grocery stores such as Trader Joes. Some regular supermarkets.
How to eat it: 1 cup per day, may be added to fresh fruit; blended into a smoothie; or drunk on its own.
This is a cold drink that is made from black tea that has gone through a fermentation process. It is drunk cold, is slightly fizzy and has a slightly tart flavor.
Where to get it: Health food stores carry Kombucha tea but beware of versions that have added sugar. The brands I like are High Country Kombucha and GT’s Organic Raw Kombucha.
Kombucha is really easy to make at home, and at a fraction of the cost of buying it retail! You need a “baby kombucha”-a kombucha culture-which can be purchased from various websites such as www.organic-kombucha.com. You brew black tea, add sugar (yes kombucha requires sugar to ferment but nominal sugar is actually left at the end of the process) and add the kombucha culture – 10 days later you have a gallon of kombucha! And even better, each time you make a batch the culture duplicates and so you can start giving them away to your family and friends!! Given that kombucha tea in the store is about $3 a bottle, this is a really economical way to have a healthy drink.
How to drink it: 1 cup a day with or without meals. For those who are trying to get out of the habit of drinking alcohol at night, a glass of kombucha tea with dinner can provide a great substitute.
Fermented veggies are powerhouses when it comes to nutrients and probiotics!! Foods like sauerkraut, which is fermented cabbage, have been eaten in european countries, such as Germany, for years. Another good options is kim-chee, which is a traditional Korean dish based on cabbage but often includes other vegetables.
Where to get it: health food stores, Asian markets
How to eat it: 1-2 teaspoons several times a week. Most people find that Kim-Chee needs to be eaten in small doses as it has a strong flavor.
A Note About Pregnancy
Fermented foods are fine to ingest during pregnancy and can help keep the microbiome in balance. Often pregnancy hormones will make Candida worse, so probiotics and diet are good strategies during pregnancy. I will say though, that kombucha can contain some alcohol in the finished product (these are usually distinctly marked on commercial brand bottles). For me, I didn’t worry about it, and still drank it during pregnancy, but I remember one day and check out person at Sprouts looking horrified because I was having it. (I didn’t dare tell her that I drank the odd glass of wine during pregnancy too, she might have had me arrested!)
Further reading and research
For information on fermented foods, I suggest Donna Gates’ www.bodyecology.com. It is a wealth of information on the benefits of fermented foods, as well as being a good resource for purchasing items such as kefir starter that will get you started on the fermented foods road.